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Thursday, July 26, 2012 - Page updated at 05:30 p.m.
Controversial 'deep green' building moves forward
By Eric Pryne
Seattle Times business reporter
Brooks Sports' proposed "deep green" Seattle headquarters at the foot of Stone Way North cleared a big hurdle Wednesday.
Rebuffing charges that the building isn't green enough to warrant special treatment, the Seattle City Council's land-use committee voted to effectively give developer Skanska USA an extra 20 feet of height in return for the project's environment-friendly design.
Skanska has said the extra height — above the 45 feet zoning ordinarily allows — is needed to make its Stone 34 building economically viable. Brooks, a running-shoe and running-apparel maker, plans to move its headquarters there from Bothell.
Skanska is seeking approval for the five-story building under a city pilot program that encourages "Living Buildings," probably the greenest buildings on the planet.
The program provides special incentives for developers who meet at least 60 percent of the requirements of the "Living Building Challenge," developed by the Seattle-based International Living Future Institute, as well as strict energy, water and stormwater conservation goals.
The program allows participating projects an extra 10 feet of height. The legislation the committee approved Wednesday grants an additional 10 feet.
The full council is expected to take up the measure Monday, said Richard Conlin, the committee's chairman.
While Stone 34 has won support from conservation groups, the Wallingford Community Council and many neighbors oppose it.
They argue that the project is out of scale with the neighborhood, and that the pilot program's height and other incentives should be reserved for projects attempting to meet all, or at least more, Living Building requirements than the 60 percent Skanska has vowed to attain.
An amendment by Councilmember Nick Licata that would have effectively blocked Stone 34 failed on a 3-2 vote. It would have allowed the extra 10 feet only for projects aspiring to a higher level of green-ness.
The International Living Future Institute, which has trademarked the Living Building name, and the Bullitt Foundation, developer of the only Seattle commercial building seeking full Living Building status, had complained the program was being diluted for projects such as Stone 34 and was sowing confusion about just what a Living Building is.
The committee attempted to address that by renaming the pilot program for projects such as Stone 34 the "Seattle Deep Green" pilot program, reserving the Living Building label for projects such as Bullitt's that aim higher.
The incentives remain the same for both, however.
The Living Future Institute's Katie Spataro said her organization appreciated the name change. But she also said developers will have no reason to pursue full Living Buildings if the city awards the same incentives to projects meeting just 60 percent of the requirements.
Several council members said the city should explore offering different incentives to projects aiming for different levels of green.
Eric Pryne: 206-464-2231 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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